Wednesday, January 28, 2009

dispatch from Tlaquepaque

The drive from Cuyutlán to Guadalajara takes 2 1/2 hours, even though it is only about 100 miles. Most of it is on a toll road, 4 lanes, moderately heavy traffic, and it goes quickly. Thirty-five miles of this road are, however, 2 lanes and some or all of it is always under construction. Including today. And every idler and fool was on the road so it took us an extra hour to get here. When we drove this road in the opposite direction in December the hills were green and lush; now they are a dull brown and dried out. Even so, there is an interesting variety of landscape to gaze at in passing. I couldn't see the volcanoes when we were in Colima; by the time we got to Cuidad Guzman, the half-way point, the air was clear and the two mountains were visible. The agave is its usual dusty blue-grey. There are huge fields of some sort of reed used in making furniture and window blinds, with its feathery white stalks, like Cleopatra's fans. Much of the flat parts look like Nevada or Idaho with neatly marked irrigated fields growing unidentifiable crops. The jacaranda are not yet out but we did spy four or five brilliant yellow primavera trees. In December the plastic greenhouse covers were over the bean crops. Today the bushy plants were open to the warm sun and we could see their little white blossoms. There is a many- mile-square area that resembles the Bonneville Salt Flats. In fact, I think it was a lake, ringed by mountains. Small towns are sprinkles around what was most likely the lake's shoreline. There are still some parts that are marshy and reedy. But most is flat, dusty and unarable, staked out with signs reading "¡Tolveneros! Precaution!" Then you hit the suburbs of Guadalajara and the big outlet mall, the Sol beer bottling plant, the new Mega market complex (right next to the WalMart and Sam's Club), light industry, the University of Guadalajara, and all the other usual blights on an urban landscape. By this time the traffic was fierce and we were again slowed down. But we finally turned off to Tlaquepaque and gave a collective sigh of relief that we had made it.

The Casa de las Flores is as funky, colorful, and eye-popping as usual. We haven't been here for three years and although the physical plant hasn't changed, the decor is always a movable feast. I will take a picture-stroll through the place tomorrow. We settled into our usual room (ask for #6; best view of the garden), chatted up our hosts Stan and José, and decided it was time for comida. We walked down into the town, a couple of blocks away, and decided on this place, a new one for us.

Those of you who are Carlos Castaneda fans will recognize the name. "Tonal" is everything that ever was, is or ever will be. "Nahual" is everything else. I ordered tampequeña, a kind of grilled steak. Absolutely the best piece of beef I've EVER had in Mexico. If you let your eye fall across the grazing cattle as you drive through Mexico you can understand why beef is so bad. These poor critters graze on stubble; no hay or grass or kibble or whatever it is that cattle eat to make them fat and tasty!

There are wonderful things to look at on the walls; masks, paintings, retalbos, tapestries, and little niches and icons stuck here and there. The ceilings are high, and the feeling is of light and air and color everywhere.

After lunch we wandered down to the square and poked around in the shops. Note the blue sky!

The last time we were here the Christmas creche was still set up in this bandstand, with life-sized statues of people and animals. The only jarring addition was a baby who looked about 4 years old. This year it has already been dismantled. But I love this gazebo. You find them in the central jardins in cities, towns and villages throughout Mexico.

I am not sure what's on the program for tomorrow, the actual anniversary date. We'll either go out to Tonalá for a day of shopping or we'll go into Guadalajara for comida and some swanky restaurant. The great lamp hunt is officially on; we found a couple of big urns today that could be turned into lamps if we can't find anything else. But we're holding out for a Tonalá visit before deciding. That little town, about 15 minutes from here, is like one gigantic flea market, 24/7. Thursday and Sunday are the actual "market" days, when the streets are clogged with vendors selling every imaginable art, craft, jimcrack, doo-dad, piece of essential junk imaginable. If we go on Friday it will be much quieter and easier to get around. We'll decide in the morning.

Whatever we do, it's just nice to be here. Weather is beautiful; warm, clear blue skies, no humidity, no mosquitoes. A welcome change.


At 9:57 AM, Blogger mary ann said...

Wow, some beautiful writing here and of course the photos are a delight. Enjoy!


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